Fishing Up North
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This second edition contains new and updated stories from the super-heated days when fishing fleets turned king crab into fortunes, and the annual circus of Bristol Bay’s monster salmon runs, to the dangerous life of the open-ocean trawler.
The true stories in Fishing Up North: Stories of Luck and Loss in Alaskian Waters capture the flavor of the modern fisherman’s life and fortunes in the waters off Alaska. You’ll find firsthand accounts of frightening weather, good fishing, terrible fishing, great days, and sweet living from the decks of crabbers, trawlers, longliners, trollers, and gillnetters.
This book and others like it have inspired film crews to trek to Alaska and cover the crabbing seasons for reality TV shows. Commercial fishing’s home ports—Dutch Harbor, Kodiak, Naknek, Cordova, Petersburg, and Sitka—are classic fishing towns, where docks, bars, and even quiet living merge in colorful portraits about life on the last frontier.
“Sometimes I hate it, but other times I love it,” Tim Sanger tells me at dawn on the run home. He is on the wheel as we ease through calm seas at nine knots off a coast that inspires well-being just because you feel so lucky just to be seeing it. To the north, the snow-white peaks slip into the sea from crests that march like a saw blade across unusually clear blue sky in the flat light of an early Arctic morning. In February, the sun glides in a low groove across the southern horizon, a mere rumor of heat and light.
“I was as green as they get when I get when I got on this boat last year,” Sanger says. “Now I know there isn’t any other way to get the feeling I got when we got 70,000 pounds of halibut in one twenty-four-hour opening. I looked down in the hold and saw all those fish and I realized that I caught every one of them. And then there’s the paycheck. I guess fishing is kind of addictive.”
Prelude: Getting Lucky
Ch 1 The Beast of Ugly Seasons King Crabbing, Dutch Harbor
Ch 2 Talking Price and the Cruel Sixteen Salmon Gillnetting, Bristol Bay
Ch 3 The Billion dollar Bottomfish Dream Groundfish Trawling
Ch 4 Kenny and the Council Westward Hilton Hotel, Anchorage
Ch 5 Flying Fish and the Death of a Plane at Egegik Salmon setnetting Bristol Bay
Ch 6 A Beautiful Place to Be Salmon Trolling, Southeast Alaska
Ch 7 Fishing with Modest Ambition Codfish Trawling, Kodiak
Ch 8 Fishing the Flats, Salmon Gillnetting Prince William Sound
Ch 9 The Dream Comes True on the Chain Pollock Trawling, Dutch Harbor
Ch 10 The Resurrection of The Rebecca B Codfish longlinging, Gulf of Alaska
Ch 11 Kelping for Crude The Exxon Valdez Spill
Ch 12 Derby Days, Sleepless Nights Halibut Longlining, Southeast Alaska
Ch 13 Salmon in the Trees Salmon Spawning, Alexander Archipelago



Publié par
Date de parution 01 août 2012
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9780882409849
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0850€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Stories of Luck and Loss in Alaskan Waters
For Kurt, Kay, Rose, and Michael

Text and photographs 2012 by Brad Matsen

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of Alaska Northwest Books .

First edition published 1998.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication-Data:
Matsen, Bradford.
Fishing up North : stories of luck and loss in Alaskan waters / by Brad Matsen.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-88240-896-5 (pbk.)
ISBN 978-0-88240-984-9 (e-book)
1. Fisheries-Alaska-Anecdotes. 2. Fishers-Alaska-Anecdotes. I. Title.

SH222.A4M38 1998
338.3 727 09798-dc21

Designers: Elizabeth Watson, Vicki Knapton
Map: Gray Mouse Graphics

Alaska Northwest Books
An imprint of

P.O. Box 56118
Portland, OR 97238-6118 (503) 254-5591

I am grateful to have been a witness and recorder of some of the events and circumstances of this time. I am especially indebted to the fishermen and others in the fishing community who were so willing to allow me into their lives. Many thanks, also, to my editors and colleagues, John Pappenheimer at the Alaska Fisherman s Journal; Jim Fullilove, Chris Cornell, Hugh McKellar, Mike Crowley, and Marydale Abernathy at National Fisherman; and Mike Robbins at Oceans and Audubon for giving me, as fishermen say, a chance. Linda Gunnarson did a fine job of making these stories make sense, and Marlene Blessing, my friend and editor at Alaska Northwest Books, is again part of the great good fortune of my life. As always, my daughter Laara brought me endless inspiration and joy.

Prelude: Getting Lucky


1 The Beast of Ugly Seasons


2 Talking Price and the Cruel Sixteen


3 The Billion-dollar Bottomfish Dream


4 Kenny and the Council


5 Flying Fish and the Death of a Plane at Egegik


6 A Beautiful Place to Be


7 Fishing with Modest Ambition


8 Fishing the Flats


9 The Dream Comes True on the Chain


10 The Resurrection of the Rebecca B


11 Kelping for Crude


12 Derby Days, Sleepless Nights


13 Salmon in the Trees

Alaska, once again, was a last frontier. People will continue to fish for a living, but we all sail on a very different ocean now.
The good luck that frees a man or woman to fish for a living came to me at midlife when I bought a barely serviceable boat, sailed from my home in Juneau, Alaska, and went salmon trolling. My partner and I did everything wrong, including tying our gear on backward for the first two weeks, but we were euphoric for the whole season and, eventually, even caught enough fish to make it pay. I lasted only two years, though, mostly because the long seasons conflicted with fatherhood and I couldn t take my daughter, Laara, with me. My luck, however, held beyond my time on the grounds.
What you have here is a collection of a dozen stories, originally published between 1980 and 1992, some in slightly different versions, in National Fisherman, the Alaska Fisherman s Journal, Audubon, and Oceans. Together, they are an account of the Alaskan fishing grounds, which crackled with adventure and enterprise during the years after passage of the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, America s chief fisheries law. until its revision in 1996, the Act clearly stimulated development, but now fisheries everywhere are changing gait from unbridled growth to sustainability. Incredibly, we have reached or exceeded the capacity of many fish stocks to surrender meals to a booming human population.
In 1989, the united Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, in a routine annual report on the world s food supply, shocked everyone whose lives are entwined with the sea, meaning everybody on Earth. After a steady rise from 20 million tons per year just after World War II, the production capacity of the ocean peaked at about 90 million tons in 1988 and then flattened out. The catch has grown no further, despite the fact that the world s fishing nations are pumping about $230 billion a year into the fleets to produce seafood worth about $175 billion. No matter how hard we fish, it appears, the ocean we once thought would keep up with the burgeoning human population s demand for food hollers, Enough!
As I traveled and wrote on the Alaskan fishing grounds, it became apparent to me that fishermen were instinctively aware of this shift in our basic perceptions about the sea. By 1985, true environmental coverage began to make its way into the fishing trade papers and magazines, and soon people in fishing communities-particularly in Alaska, where most fish stocks still are quite healthy-were what you might call pretty green. The fisheries development boom that spanned the 1980s, we all could sense, was the last wave of an infinite ocean crashing onto the shores of the Aleutians, Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, and the Southeast Alaska archipelago. Alaska, once again, was a last frontier. People will continue to fish for a living, but we all sail on a very different ocean now.
Regardless of the politics, economics, and biological truths that swirl around the business of extracting food from the sea, the people out there with the fleets are just doing what people do. They are ambitious, brave, frightened, rich, poor, confused, and amused, but fishing somehow differentiates them from other streaks of life here at the end of the twentieth century. These accounts of a mere dozen years in the histories of fishing people are a heartbeat in the record of thousands of seasons, but, for better or worse, they did immediately precede our discovery that the ocean is not infinite in its ability to produce food.
The stories in Fishing Up North are arranged as I wrote them, in chronological order, covering the major fisheries on the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, with one exception. At the risk of submitting readers to the same tedium as fishermen at meetings, I include out of order a chapter on the workings of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the eleven men and women who make the rules for the fisheries off Alaska. I also include a chapter on the Exxon Valdez disaster, which delivered a terrible blow to fishermen and, at least momentarily, alerted the industrial world to another variation of the folly of dominion over nature. Throughout this book, any errors of fact or recollection are my own, and I apologize in advance for the inevitable mistakes.

The Beast of Ugly Seasons

We re trying to get used to a few less zeros around here.
-Frank Bohannon, F/V Neahkahnie
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
-Hunter Thompson
For the first couple of weeks of the Bering Sea king crab season, it made perfect sense, in a twisted sort of way, to just forget that the forecasts said the crab had vanished. After all, it s a little tough to go out into one of the meanest oceans in the world, burn up enough fuel to light Vegas for a year, and run the risk of being maimed or killed unless you think there s a lot of money in it. So during the early going, the wisdom on the radio from the grounds went like this: The first trip doesn t mean much anyway They re all dug down in the mud They re here; they re just not feeding Somebody s got to be on them.
In Dutch Harbor and Akutan on the Aleutian Chain, packers were going through the usual motions, flying in hundreds of workers at $800 a crack round trip, tuning up the cooking and freezing equipment, and generally hoping that the season wouldn t be all that bad, that the great swarms of crab would again materialize. For five years, the king crab season had been a license to print money for almost everyone who showed up out on the Chain, and it was clear that expectations were going to die hard.
At Pan Alaska Seafoods, the tidy blue-and-white compound on the unalaska side of Dutch, superintendent Greg Gerhardstein was holding twice-daily sessions known as radio schedule when he called around his fleet for scores, parts and supply orders, and delivery times. Assembled in the office with him were his foreman, parts boss, assistants of one sort or another, and, crouched in the corner, the Beast of ugly Seasons. The first loads were coming in after a full week of fishing, and the outlook wasn t brilliant. The high boat so far had come in with about half a load, and the skip molts and tired crab shot the dead loss way up. But Gerhardstein was hanging in there, and his strong, polite voice reached a couple of hundred miles across the Bering Sea.
Ah, Libra, Libra, Libra. You there, John?
Yep. Good morning, Greg.
Ah, good morning, John. We ve got you down here for Wednesday night. Is that still good?
Sounds good. We re still Yankee Lima on the score. And we ll need somebody to look at our deck hoist.
Yeah, roger that. You need somebody to look at

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